Professional Development

Sarah at the SLA Conference

Monday, June 20, 2011 2:15 pm

On June 12th – 14th, I attended the Special Libraries Association (SLA) Annual Conference in Philadelphia. SLA consists of academic, corporate, and government librarians and numerous scientific divisions including the Biomedical & Life Sciences Division, Chemistry Division, and Physics-Astronomy-Mathematics (PAM) Division.

On Sunday morning, I attended a 4-hour pre-conference on “Chemistry Information Sources, Requests, and Reference,” which was taught by Judith Currano, Head of the Chemistry Library at the University of Pennsylvania and Dawn French, Sr. Analyst-Knowledge Services at Millennium Inorganic Chemicals Library. Topics covered during the session included case studies in chemical information retrieval, issues in patent searching, and physical and chemical properties of substances. As collection development moves more towards the acquisition of e-books, I came away from this session with ideas for acquiring chemistry handbooks and reference works in electronic format if funding becomes available. Substructure searching, which involves using a portion of a chemical structure to locate similar molecules in chemistry databases, was one of the most interesting and valuable aspects of the session. My knowledge of chemistry from college came in handy when answering the instructor’s questions about substructure searching, and I am excited to apply this to LIB220 in the future.

Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist and 3-time Pulitzer Prize Winner, was the keynote speaker on Sunday evening. He stated that globalization and IT has led to the flattening of the world. The most important competitive advantage is between you and your imagination. The world is increasingly becoming a right-brained world in the sense we not only need critical thinking and reasoning in accomplishing our work but also creativity and synthesis. Friedman also predicted that in 10 years, the world is heading towards universal connectivity and everyone will be connected from Detroit to Damascus, and old-fashioned things such as trust, values and ethics will matter more in the future.

On Monday morning, I attended the Biomedical and Life Sciences Division Contributed Papers Session. Rolando Garcia-Milian, Health Science Center Libraries, University of Florida, presented his paper on VIVO: Enabling National Networking of Scientists. VIVO is an open source semantic web application for scientists which was founded at Cornell University in 2003.The mission of VIVO is to enable scientists to develop connections at the national level and partner institutions. Partner institutions include the University of Florida, Cornell University, Indiana University, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, The Scripps Research Institute, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Ponce Medical College.

Taneya Y. Koonce, Associate Director for Research, Knowledge Management at Eskind Biomedical Library, Vanderbilt University presented her paper on “Using Patient Literacy and Knowledge to Optimize the Delivery of Health Information.” This study created a workable model for generating patient-specific information prescriptions. The researchers used surveys to assess patients’ retention of health information about hypertension with 3 rounds of testing. Conclusions from the study are that knowledge assessment tools can identify misunderstanding, and educational materials can address knowledge gaps. Furthermore, assessment tools should be carefully developed, refined, and evaluated.

Next, I attended the Physics-Astronomy-Mathematics (PAM) Division Roundtable, where I heard about other librarians’ initiatives on data management and curation. I met the Physics Librarian from Cornell University, who shared about Cornell’s Research Data Management Service Group website, which is a directory of public services related to data management on campus. Data services at other libraries that were also mentioned during the PAM Roundtable include Texas Tech University and MIT’s Guide to Data Management and Publishing. The conclusion from our discussion was that the data management policy should not diverge from researchers’ workflows.

The 3rd session that I attended on Monday was a panel discussion on publishing. Panelists included Anita Ezzo, Editor of the Journal of Agricultural & Food Information, Leslie Reynolds, Editor of Practical Academic Librarianship, Tony Stankus, Editor of Science & Technology Libraries, and Lisa O’Connor, Editor of Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship. Here are some tips from the Editors:

  • Write about what interests you
  • Write regularly
  • Create goals with deadlines
  • Literature review should cite relevant studies in logical progression
  • Appropriate choice of methods
  • Logical, justifiable and well-reasoned conclusions
  • Articles should be understandable not just to a U.S. audience but also to an international audience

For more information:

Silvia, Paul J. 2007. How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

On Tuesday morning, I attended a very informative panel discussion on “Developments in Informatics.” Featured speakers were Dr. Steve Heller, Project Director of the InChI Trust, Dr. Diane Rein, Bioinformatics and Molecular Biology Information Resources Librarian at the University at Buffalo, and Dr. Alberto Accomazzi, Project Manager of the NASA Astrophysics Data System.

Dr. Steven Heller: “Why Librarians Love InChI
Chemists use diagrammatic representations to convey structural information. International Chemical Identifier (InChI) is a machine-readable string of symbols originally developed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). The objective of InchI is to create a unique, public domain, open source algorithm, freely available, non-proprietary identifier for compounds. InChI covers 99% of compounds found in computer readable databases. One of the limitations is that there are areas of chemistry not yet covered by the InchI algorithm. However, different stereoisomers are assigned unique InchIs, and the InchIKey can be used on search engines

Dr. Diane C. Rein: “Bioinformatics as Trend: Use and Users”
She provided an overview and history of bioinformatics. Bioinformatics originated from genetics, and biological research has evolved from a descriptive, observational science (hypothesis driven) to a predictive information science (discovery driven). Bioinformatics is a phenomenon of engineers, computer scientists, and statisticians, and one of the outcomes of this emerging field is collaboration and the concept of global data. One of the latest, important developments in bioinformatics is the 1000 Genomes Project, and their goal is to catalog genetic variations that occur at 1% in human populations.

Dr. Alberto Accomazzi: “Astroinformatics: e-Science meets Astronomy”
Astronomy research is funded as pure research and is immune from commercial interests. Astronomy is a data driven science about to be hit by a data deluge. Scientific research requires repeatability, and the lifecycle of a research project should be documented by capturing all artifacts and components (provenance information how data was generated; data, processes and results need to be properly described, accessible and linked together).

This was my first time attending the SLA Conference, and the sessions I attended on biology, chemistry, and physics were very interesting and worthwhile. Not only did I gain new ideas for teaching but also perspective on new trends in science librarianship.

2 Responses to “Sarah at the SLA Conference”

  1. Great stuff, Sarah! I’m so glad it’s you and not me having to sit through those – are you sure they weren’t speaking a foreign language ;)

  2. I’m glad you got so much out of the SLA conference, Sarah. It is good to try different professional development opportunities!

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